South Florida is having a moment in the underground rap scene.
With the help of streaming platform SoundCloud and self-promoting, social media savvy spitters like Lil Pump, XXXTentacion and Kodak Black, the Sunshine State is a hot spot for a new wave of hip-hop.
Enter Isaiah Rivera, aka wifisfuneral, the 20-year-old NYC-born, Palm Beach-bred rapper taking SoundCloud, Spotify and the stage by storm. Rivera seamlessly blends boom-bap beats with introspective lyrics, setting him apart from the often trite genre of “SoundCloud rap.”
Rivera isn’t shy about his troubled past, freckled with drug-induced debauchery and accidental overdoses. Newly sober, the rapper recently started his own label, Rich Life Records and released his third mixtape, The Boy Who Cried Wolf.
Make no mistake — his stage name isn’t an allusion to the death of the internet. In fact, Rivera has a Wi-Fi symbol permanently perched on his cheek in black ink. Read on to learn more about the story behind his name, why rappers are like dogs and what it means to be an “emo thug.”
Florida is a hotbed for underground hip-hop right now. Do you feel like you’re part of a movement or do you feel like you’re kind of detached and doing your own thing?
I’m just doing my own thing, honestly, as far as music goes. I was always just making music because I genuinely like making music, like when people use those titles about “the underground” and stuff like that, I just look at that like “OK, cool.” It’s like a badge, but I don’t really care for it.
How do you feel about the term “SoundCloud rapper”?
I feel like it’s discrediting artists. The only reason why it’s discrediting artists is it just boxes you in, and people say like, “Oh well, if you release your music primarily on SoundCloud, then you’re a SoundCloud rapper.” Like alright, if this was 2004 or 2003 and LimeWire was still around and we were primarily using LimeWire to drop our music, would we be “LimeWire rappers?” We should just let it be its own thing.
In a time where Wi-Fi is obviously the opposite of dead, your name seems kind of ironic. What does that name mean to you?
The only reason why there’s “funeral” in the name is because it was originally a group between me and one of my homeboys and how we met is because his friend had committed suicide, so that’s why we put the “funeral” part in it. And the “wifi” part, just because I want my music to be global. I want everyone to be able to listen to my music and feel comfortable listening to my music.
Why isn’t wifisfuneral still a group?
People just part ways. At the end of the day, I have a vision for myself and I’m gonna do that with or without certain people that don’t want to be involved anymore.
At this point in your career, is there anyone that’s on your bucket list of dream collabs?
Do you see that happening in the near future?
If it’s presented the right way and things happen to fall at the right place at the right time. I honestly don’t even feel like I’m at a point in my career where I should even be worrying about features or anything like that, so when I get there, I know for a fact it’s gonna be the No. 1 feature. I’m gonna be like, “Yo, this is what we need to get done.”
Who are some of your all-time favorite rappers?
I listened to a lot of ‘90s boom-bap rap growing up; Wu-Tang Clan, Big L, Nas, Biggie… Those were all really big influences.
Tell me more about how and where you grew up and how that affected where you are now, music-wise.
My dad used to be a battle rapper in New York so it kind of just ran in my blood, I guess, and I just picked up the habit. It was like the only thing that I’m actually really good at. I don’t really know why, I just so happened to be really good at rapping and I just took to it because I knew that was the only thing I’m good at doing.
Tell me about your mixtape The Boy Who Cried Wolf. How is it different than your past projects?
The Boy Who Cried Wolf is the best project I have out right now because it’s the first project that I dropped that I don’t mind people judging me about, saying what they like, what they don’t like. It’s like another trial and error to show me what to do whenever I do decide to work on a debut album. The timing just isn’t right for a debut album right now. I just feel like I need to work on myself a lot more because there’s a way that I want to present myself and I don’t think the world gets it yet.
You’re pretty open about your past, specifically your drug use. How would you say that your past with drugs has affected you personally and musically?
I learned my self-value because I didn’t really think about any of that when I was doing all of that. It’s just more of a lesson and a part of my life that I felt like I just had to go through in order to be the person that I am right now, so I just take it like that. It messed up a lot of opportunities and a lot of friendships that I had once upon a time, but I don’t even look at all that. I just look at what it did for me after I got off all of it.
This is your sixth cross-country tour. Tell me what touring is like for you and what you hope to get out of this tour in particular.
With every tour, I just want to evolve wifisfuneral as a whole and my brand. I just really want to set myself up in a position where I can feel really comfortable with my career and do things that I’ve always wanted to do. I really hope that with this tour, it’s like a domino effect in a sense; it just stacks up everything for the right place, for the right time for other bigger and better opportunities. Doing a sixth tour, you kind of get adjusted to everything and you know exactly what to do, what not to do, how to prepare, how not to prepare and I want to keep touring, honestly. I want to go on as many tours as possible because rappers are like dogs. The older you get, you can’t really do as much… So I just want to take advantage of that as much as possible.
Tell me about Rich Life Records. What’s it’s like owning your own label?
I came up with the idea almost two years ago. I just had a lot of talented individuals that I felt like were on the same tier as me as far as making music, like I thought they were just as good as me if not better, and I was just like, “Yo, I really want these specific individuals to have their talents showcased in the best way possible, presented to everyone and to the mass media.” So I started my label. My manager helped me as far as starting it, and right now I have five artists.
Do you guys all hang out a lot? When you’re all in the same room, what’s the energy like?
We definitely hang out a lot. We’re all really good friends. We all met each other like a good three years ago, so for the most part it’s like a real friendship. It’s more like a brotherhood. It’s a record label, but we move as more of a brotherhood and a collective.
I think it’s funny that your Twitter handle is “Emo Thug.” It sounds like an oxymoron but it seems very emblematic of your approach to music. Can you talk a little bit about where that name came from and what it means to you?
I was just talking to one of my friends one day and they were asking me like, “Yo, how would you describe your music?” and I was just like, “I don’t know, like an emo kid that just raps over thug-ass beats, like emo thug music.” And we all just started laughing hard as f*ck and then the name just kept playing in my head whenever I would listen to beats… I may make that the name of a project.
wifisfuneral w/ Danny Towers, 458Keez, Cris Dinero and DJ Yazmine, Pub Rock, 8005 E Roosevelt St, Scottsdale, Friday, November 3, 8 p.m., $15.